Love is in the air as we inch closer and closer to the day that embodies all that is romance. Valentine’s Day is when we share our passion with the one(s) we love with just a little more fervour and fanfare than the rest of the year.
I can’t think of anything more romantic to sip on Feb. 14 than a fine sparkling wine, those tiny and elegant bubbles that shout love with every pop and crackle as they tickle our tongue. If ever there was a time for Champagne, or as it is called anywhere but in Champagne, sparkling wine or simply bubbly, it is on Valentine’s Day with the one you love over a romantic dinner.
Sparkling wine has always been the poster girl for sexy, romantic, dreamy, love, emotion, celebration and excitement.
Who can forget Champagne house Moët & Chandon’s 2011 international advertising campaign featuring actress Scarlett Johansson? Developed by Paris-based Works Advertisement Agency and shot by renowned British photographer Tim Walker, the photos (above and top) and video (below) show the glamour and sexiness of Johansson enjoying Moet seductively at Trianon, an impressive residence built by Jean-Rémy’s Moët between 1805-1817 on the Moët & Chandon Estate in Epernay, France.
Champagne has always aligned itself with beauty, love, celebration and moments that capture our hearts. Johannson was the perfect choice for the campaign.
Here in Canada (and elsewhere in the world), Champagne is not a word that can used to describe domestic sparkling wines, but winemakers still employ the very same techniques as those in Champagne to make those magical bubbles come to life in a glass.
No matter what it’s called, no matter where you are, a nice, chilled bottle of bubbly can put the romance into whatever occasion you are celebrating.
For Valentine’s day, why not try any one of these Ontario sparkling wines that can be found either at Vintages stores or directly from the winery? It is one of the styles Ontario is very good at.
Here’s our list (in alphabetical order):
Chateau des Charmes Rose Sparkling 2012 ($29, 91 points) — This is a 50-50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with a Pinot Noir dosage that was recently disgorged after 18 months on the lees and is made in the traditional method. It has a pretty nose of soft red fruits of raspberry, cranberry and cherry with subtle herbs. A gentle mousse leads to rich, ripe cherry and cranberry fruits that are elegant and lush on the palate. This is a nicely mature and poised rose with a touch of sweetness on the finish.
Chateau des Charmes Brut Sparkling NV ($23, 88 points) — The 50-50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir was recently disgorged after three years on the lees. It is made the traditional method. The nose shows lemon, toast and citrus that’s bright yet elegant. The tiny bubbles pop on the palate with creamy but fresh lemon, lime, pear, apple fruits all lifted by bright acidity. Great value sparkler.
Featherstone Cuvée Joy 2011 ($35, 92 points) — A traditionally-made sparkler made from 100% estate-grown Chardonnay. This is a delightful, yes, joyful, wine with a nose of brisk lemon, baked apple, toast, citrus and interesting yeasty-bready notes. Perfect tiny bubbles tickle the palate with a lovely melange of citrus, toast and creamy notes all lifted by wonderful, refreshing acidity.
Fielding Estate Sparkling Rose ($30, 90 points) — The is a non-vintage Rose traditionally made from 84% Pinot Noir and the rest Chardonnay with the bulk of the fruit from the 2013 vintage. It’s quite toasty on the nose with fragrant red fruits, herbs, raspberry and leesy/floral notes. It has good acid lift on the palate with tart red fruits, lovely finesse, a lively mousse and a toasty note through the finish.
Flat Rock Cellars Riddled Sparkling 2009 ($30, 91 points) — The base wine is 92% Chardonnay with a touch of Pinot Noir and spends four years on the lees before disgorging. The nose shows lovely and inviting brioche, toast, lemon-lime, grapefruit and apple notes. A soft but persistent mousse delivers an array of bright lime, green apple and creamy pear notes in this nicely aged and mature sparkling wine.
Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catharine Carte Blanche Estate Blanc de Blanc 2010 ($45, 92 points) — This top sparkling wine from HoP is made from 100% estate Chardonnay grown on the Short Hills Bench. About 20% of the fruit is barrel fermented and secondary fermentation in the bottle is followed by 54 months of aging on the lees. The nose is lemony with notes of biscuit, toasted vanilla, saline minerality and brioche. The palate reveals a lively bubble with lemon-citrus, toasty-yeasty notes, orange peel, and subtle earthiness on a luxurious, silky and vibrant finish. Such a beautiful and thought-provoking sparkling wine that can age gracefully in the cellar.
Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catharine Rose Brut ($30, 91 points) — A blend of about 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay made in the traditional bubbly method. The nose is lovely with biscuit, cherry, raspberry and subtle herb and rhubarb notes. On the palate it’s quite dry and refreshing with crisp red fruits, pomegranate, apple, citrus, bramble and toasty vanilla notes through a lively, bright finish.
Inniskillin Sparkling Vidal Icewine 2014 ($80 for 375 mL, 94 points) — What a sensational treat from winemaker Bruce Nicholson. Sparkling icewine is extremely difficult to make with few wineries attempting the style, but Nicholson has perfected it. The nose is a gorgeous mélange of orange marmalade, honeycomb, peach and mango. It has a rousing mousse on the palate to go with sweet, compoted fruits, fresh and delicate notes of pineapple, tangerine and peach and a luxurious texture that’s accentuated by the tiny bubbles that tickle the palate through the finish. A rich, exotic treat that is well worth the high price.
Tawse Limestone Ridge Vineyard Spark Riesling 2014 ($20, 88 points) — Organic and biodynamic farming, traditional method and aged 12 months on the lees, the nose shows creamy/toasty notes of citrus and lemon, ripe apple and some swirling mineral notes. It’s bright and juicy on the palate with a lively mousse and leans toward citrus fruit and minerals through a fresh finish.
13th Street Grand Cuvée Blanc de Noir Brut 0 2007 ($70, 94 points) — As mentioned, seven full years on the lees, zero dosage, disgorged in Oct., this adds complexity and freshness to the low-dosage Grand Cuvée regular bottling. The nose shows fresh baked bread, brioche, toast, lemon curd, wet stone, green apple and vanilla cream. There is a fine and dainty mousse to go with biting acidity that props up the wonderful smoky citrus, toast, vanilla, butter and mature apples on the palate with gorgeous complexity and mouthfeel through the finish. It’s highly recommended you grab a bottle or two of this fine sparkling wine.
13th Street Grand Cuvée Blanc de Noir 2007 ($59, 93 points) — A gorgeous and generous nose of lemon and brioche, green apple and fresh baked bread with creamy vanilla and toast accents. It’s built in an austere style, with very low dosage, chiselled acidity and a fine mousse that tickles the palate and gives way to fresh apple and lemon flavours that are just beginning to soften. Tertiary notes of warm toast, custard and tangy minerality add to the complexity of this well-built sparkler. Drinking rather well right now but can still cellar a wee bit longer to draw out further nuances.
13th Street Cuvée Rose NV ($25, 90 points) — This reasonably-priced staple from 13th Street is a Pinot Noir-driven blend with Chardonnay and a touch of Gamay added. It spends two years on the lees. The newest release is primarily from the 2012 vintage. The nose shows fresh red berries, lovely yeasty-toasty notes and a subtle anise accent. The colour is a rich pink hue that is luminous in the glass with an energetic mousse. The flavours range from rich cherries and raspberries to bolder cranberry and toasted vanilla. Showing more elegance than the previous version with a clean and fresh finish.
Redstone Sparkling 2013 ($26, 88 points) — Made in the traditional Champagne method with an untraditional blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, this sparkler spends up to 18 months on the lees. It’s a lively and spunky bubbly with a nose of fresh citrus, apple and creamy/toasty notes. It’s driven by racy acidity on the palate and combines lemon, lime and green apple flavours.
Prince Edward County
Hinterland Les Etoiles 2012, Prince Edward County ($39, 92 points) — The 2012 version of Les Etoiles, made in the traditional method, is a blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir with a modest 6 g/l dosage. The nose shows grapefruit, pear, brioche, toast and smoky-flinty notes. It’s racy on the palate with a healthy, persistent stream of bubbles that accent flavours of fresh grapefruit, pear, citrus and that vein of flinty minerality. Beautiful bubbly here and worth laying down for a few years.
Hinterland Les Etoiles 2009, Prince Edward County ($49, 93 points) — Only 80 cases of this aged Les Etoiles (on the lees for five years, disgorged in July) are available. It has a beautiful, engaging nose of brioche, yeast, baked bread, bright citrus, pear and apple. The soft, elegant mousse carries toasty, mature citrus notes with subtle green apple flavours and minerals with a creamy texture through the long, luxurious finish.
Hinterland Blanc de Blanc 2011 ($39, 92 points) — This is made from 100% Chardonnay aged in five-year-old oak barrels with zero dosage. The 2011 growing season was a little cooler and wetter than 2009 but it turned out to be a great vintage nonetheless, according to winemaker Jonas Newman. “The Chardonnay, which was destined for 2011 Les Etoiles, was so special that we diverted 3000L for our first Blanc de Blanc. It was bottle aged (sur lattes) for 40 months with only 80 cases produced.” It’s so fresh and perky on the nose with lemon, biscuit, apricot, lime, grapefruit and creamy pear with leesy-vanilla-mineral accents. It’s nicely aged but still bright and cheerful on the palate with citrus, brioche and pear flavours to go with a creamy, textured mouth feel.